Liverpool defeated AC Milan in their opening Champions League Group B fixture, but Jurgen Klopp was forced to make a tough but “sensible” selection decision regarding Virgil van Dijk
Jurgen Klopp has opened up on the “difficult” conversation he had with Virgil van Dijk telling the defender he would not be starting against AC Milan.
Liverpool defeated the Italian giants 3-2 in a pulsating, back-and-forth Champions League clash at Anfield on Wednesday night.
Van Dijk, 30, was an unused substitute for the Group B fixture as Joe Gomez made his first start of the season alongside Joel Matip in central defence.
The Dutchman has started all four of Liverpool’s Premier League games so far this season, having returned from 10 months on the sidelines with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in August.
Klopp insisted he must be “sensible” with Van Dijk’s workload as he explained his team selection against Milan, which included three other changes.
“It’s really difficult for players like Virgil van Dijk who you saw warming up tonight to tell them they are not playing,” the Reds boss told reporters after the match.
“But you need to be sensible in these moments and we have a lot of boys in the last line who are coming back from injury.
“Naby Keita started some games already, (Jordan) Henderson played a super game, both of them and Fabinho did that too, that was very important.
“Divock Origi is an outstanding striker and he did really well tonight. It’s just really difficult to get in this team to be honest. That is what makes life sometimes a bit uncomfortable but Divock is a great guy.”
Klopp deployed Henderson on the right of the midfield three after Harvey Elliott – who had been flourishing in the role – suffered a dislocated ankle against Leeds United on Sunday.
Who is Liverpool’s greatest ever No. 9? Have your say here.
Thiago made way for Keita on the other side of midfield and Origi took the place of Sadio Mane in the front line.
Klopp’s decisions appeared to have paid off in the first half as Liverpool overran their visitors and took the lead through Fikayo Tomori’s own-goal after brilliant work from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the ninth minute.
But the Reds were almost made to pay for Mohamed Salah’s penalty miss and a deluge of other squandered chances as Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz scored excellent counter-attacking goals to give Milan the lead at half-time.
Fortunately for the hosts, Salah made amends by scoring shortly after the interval and Henderson secured three points with a brilliant half-volley on 69 minutes.
Liverpool travel to Portuguese club Porto in their next Champions League fixture later this month, while Milan welcome La Liga champions Atletico Madrid to San Siro.
Porto and Atletico drew 0-0 in their opening Group B fixture.